I'm approaching the end of my 40th year of life and let me tell you, there have been some changes.
Shortly before my birthday I received a card from a man I know named Tom Boleantu who runs www.expat.ca. It was a simple card congratulating me on reaching that weighty milestone in life and offered some thoughts. The main message was that 40 is the year in which you have earned the right to no longer worry about what others think about you - if you've made it this far without spending time in jail, the loony bin or politics, you must be doing something right. I hadn't really thought much about that before, but it's absolutely true - chances are I am now closer to the end of my life than the beginning so I can't afford to waste any time on self doubt, maintaining an image, being what I am not or trying overly hard to keep others happy (besides my family, of course, after all that is this man's prime directive). Not to say that I don't care about the world, I most certainly do, but I've realized the world can't be expected to care that much about me, and that's okay.
The first change was a bit weird. Since reaching 40, I've begun drying my hands on my hair. I don't know if this started right on my birthday, or perhaps shortly after, but any time I wash my hands now I simply glide them through the sides and top of my head a few times and voila - they are dry! No towel required, just a final swipe on my pants to make sure I get any remaining droplets. I really have no idea why I started doing this but I have a couple theories. As of yet I have not suffered any major hair loss so it may be my body's way of enjoying these precious tuffs before they eventually do fall out and I see my dad (or grandpa) looking back at me every time I peek into the mirror. Secondly, the humidity levels this year have been lower than average so it's possible my hands crave more moisture and, since I don't wash my hair too often, they definitely pick up some essential oils with every pass. Lastly, I've always taken offence with those public bathroom hand dryers so it's possible that I came up with this ingenious method of hand drying with help of neither mechanical means or those equally horrible brown disposable towels which end up littered all over the floor. In any case, I'm quite satisfied with this innovation, and if you refer back to paragraph one, you'll see that I don't care that other pre-forty dudes in the john look at me funny when I'm doing this.
One day right around my 40th birthday, I had a stunning revelation as I was laying on my bed, exhausted after a busy day, hearing the faint spraying sounds of my wife sitting on the toilet in the en suite. I shot up in bed, flabbergasted by my discovery and did a few mental calculations to confirm my findings. A man has to urinate approximately 6 times per day. Each episode of urination takes approximately one minute, which includes the shaking. If you multiply this by the number of days per year that gives you 2190 minutes of standing pee time, which is 36.5 hours, equal to a full work week for a public sector labourer such as myself. I compared this to my wife's urination ritual. She also pees about 6 times per day, but she SITS DOWN on the toilet, as most women do, and takes at least 3 minutes which, after the one minute of peeing, allows 2 full minutes of rest time to be used reading women's magazines, pondering, daydreaming or singing to oneself. So in this moment of inspiration I raised the Men's Liberation flag and proudly pledged that from that moment forward, I would never, ever stand to pee again, unless on a camping trip or yellowing my initials in the snow after a night of heavy winter drinking. This simple decision has given me an additional 4380 minutes or 73 hours per year of glorious rest time and had made a huge impact on my life. I find I generally feel much more rested and am now able to stay up past 10 pm, my ideas are better and more numerous and, thanks to the wonderful selection of magazines in the home loo, I am up to date on the goings-on with all the Hollywood celebrities, this year's fashion trends and have become intimately familiar with all the fine writers at Better Homes & Gardens.
Another change I've noticed has been my taste in music. Up until my 40th, my ipod playlist was a bizarre, eclectic mix of music from around the globe including Spanish rock, Salsa, Bachata, Tango, Folk, Britpop, Country, Electropop, Dubstep, Dance, 80's, Mozambican choral, Gypsy, Spoken Word, Rockabilly, Ska, Swing, Trance, Soul, Prog Rock, New Age, Blues, Samba, Lounge, Jazz, Indie, Reggae and Primus. I was quite proud of my weird and wonderful setlist, but not anymore. You see, since hitting 40 my musical appetite has become directly focused on Metal and all its dark subgenres. Out with the Police, in with Pantera. Up yers Gorillaz, welcome Gojira. See you later Prince, welcome Priestess. Bite me Miles Davis, melt my brain Meshuggah. Bye bye Stevie Ray Vaughan, hello Slipknot. I have realized that there are many different types of metal including, but not limited to, Thrash, Death Metal, Doom Metal, Speed Metal, Gothic Metal, Symphonic Metal, Norwegian Black Metal, Sludge, Math Rock, Crust Punk, Grindcore, Metalcore, Crossover Thrash and, my personal favourite, Stoner Rock. Friends used to love coming over for dinner and a glass of wine on Friday night enjoying the sweet sounds of David Gray, Daryl Hall and Danny Michel, but they have stopped coming since I started melting their brains and shattering their glasses with Mastodon, EyeHateGod, Throwdown and Bury Your Dead. Seems that other folks my age don't have much appreciation for the art of death growls, guttural vocals and deadly howls, not to mention double kick drums and tuned down guitars. And I haven't had much luck convincing anybody to join me in the Friday evening goat sacrifice on the back deck. I really can't explain this musical infatuation, but I think it may have been encouraged by my younger brother Marty, who is approaching 40 himself, but has been a closet metal head since grade 9. Maybe he'll do the reverse at 40 and start listening to Ricky Martin.
The last change I've noticed since hitting 40 is the daily sprouting of grey chest hairs. I don't know if they are new hairs growing out grey, or existing black hairs changing colour, but I do know they are longer, coarser and infinitely more sophisticated than the regular young man black ones. I first realized this was happening as I was shaving one morning, wearing nothing more than a towel, when I was attacked by my wife, who had two sets of tweezers, one in each hand, looking like a lunatic, intent on robbing me of these manly, refined, grey curls. After beating her off with a roll of toilet paper, I sat her down and explained to her that she would have to get used to these physical changes in her man and learn to accept that the pre-40's boy she used to know was gone and replaced by a superior, more mature, and certainly much more charming older gentleman. I think she has accepted the new me, but I do think she might be plucking the odd one in the middle of the night when I'm sleeping, as there seems to be a constant layer of grey hairs on the carpet below my side of the bed.
I wonder what happens at 50?